Excerpt from The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Man in the Rockefeller Suit

The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter

By Mark Seal

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2011,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2012,
    336 pages.

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Jo Perry

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But Clark Rockefeller still had his name, his intelligence, an extraordinary art collection valued at close to a billion dollars, good friends in high places, and cherished private club memberships along the eastern seaboard, where he could avoid bourgeois hotels and restaurants. Although he'd lost Snooks, he'd gotten $800,000 in the divorce settlement, and today he had his adored daughter back with him.

He turned the corner onto Marlborough Street, the tree-lined avenue where Teddy Kennedy once kept a residence. A black SUV was parked at the curb far down the block. Behind the wheel was Darryl Hopkins, a down-on-his-luck limo driver who had had the good fortune to pick up a Rockefeller in the rain one day. He had been driving through downtown Boston the previous summer when he spotted the dignified gent - soaking wet, dressed as if he had just been sailing - attempting to flag down a cab. Hopkins screeched to a stop and offered him a lift. Since then, Hopkins and his distinguished passenger had become something of a team. Rockefeller didn't have a driver's license but always seemed to have somewhere he needed to go, and Hopkins was more than happy to provide wheels for him.

Mr. Rockefeller had the kind of peculiarities that the driver expected from very rich people. He spoke in a heavy East Coast rich boy's lockjaw and dressed exclusively in the uniform of the Wasp aristocracy: blue blazers and rep ties or ascots, when he wasn't wearing khakis and a polo shirt. Before Rockefeller's wife and little daughter had decamped for London, Hopkins used to drop off Snooks at Southfield, the exclusive private girls' school in Brookline, and pick her up.

Today was a bit unusual. Rockefeller had told Hopkins that he and Snooks had a sailing date in Newport with the son of Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island senator who was known to be a "Rockefeller Republican." But he said he had a problem - a clingy family friend he would have to ditch before they got in the limousine. He offered $2,500 for Hopkins's help.

Shortly after noon, Hopkins was parked on Marlborough Street when he saw them strolling toward the limo, a short three-person parade - Rockefeller with Snooks on his shoulders, trailed by a compact middle-aged man wearing jeans and a bright yellow polo shirt.

As they approached the vehicle, Rockefeller put Snooks down and stopped to point out one of the street's particularly stunning historic homes. When Yaffe turned to look at the building, the scion of the famous family tackled him with a body block that slammed the social worker to the ground.

Hopkins had already started the engine when Rockefeller snatched open the back door, yelled, "Get in!" to his daughter as he shoved her onto the seat - with such force that the doll she had been carrying flew out of her hands - and leaped in after her.

As Rockefeller yanked the door shut, Yaffe scrambled to his feet, grabbed the handle, and tried to climb inside. "Go, go, go!" Rockefeller ordered, and Hopkins stepped on the gas, dragging the social worker several yards before he finally let go, hitting his head on the side of the vehicle before crashing to the pavement.

Inside the limo, Snooks was wailing and holding her head, which had slammed into the doorframe as her father thrust her into the car.

"What happened?" Hopkins asked her, glancing into the rearview mirror as he sped away. "Did you hit your head?"

"I didn't just hit it, I smashed it," said the little girl.

"Well, at least we got rid of Harold," said Rockefeller, meaning Howard Yaffe.

"I know, Daddy," said Snooks, her crying subsiding as she began to calm down.

Rockefeller barked orders at Hopkins - Take a right, then a left, now right, left - until they were in front of a cab parked outside the White Hen Pantry convenience store on Beacon Hill.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Seal

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